Community combats tragedy with generosity

Published 10:25 pm Monday, October 20, 2008

Each year, more than 44,000 new cases of leukemia are diagnosed in the United States.

In the village of Driver, 2-year-old Jacob Butler is the face of that awful statistic.

He was diagnosed with the disease Sept. 23

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Jacob is the son of Kevin and Cameron Butler, two Suffolk residents and Nansemond River High School graduates with many ties to the Driver community. As such, Jacob’s fight against cancer hit home hard for many lifelong friends and neighbors of the Butlers.

Upon hearing of Jacob’s diagnosis, a small group of those friends got together and began planning ways to support the boy and his family.

The results are somewhat astonishing.

In less than a month of planning, this committee of about a dozen people has set up a calendar of events that extends through the end of the year to help support and raise money for the family.

“Having children and imagining my child going through that, just being a mom – (Jacob’s story) affects you,” Kelly Buley said. Buley is one of the group’s organizers, and she grew up with Kevin Butler.

“I just feel like they have enough to worry about, they don’t need to worry about their pocketbooks.”

With Driver gearing up for its annual Driver Days celebration, the volunteers knew they had a great opportunity to get exposure for Jacob’s situation. They will be at Driver Days with a tent to accept donations and to give information on how to help.

Then, on Oct. 28, friends will hold a charity event at the Chick-Fil-A on North Main Street, where proceeds from the evening’s sales will go to a special fund created for Jacob.

On Nov.8, the committee will be at it again, hosting a barbeque fundraising dinner at the Driver Fire Department from noon to 6 p.m. During the dinner, there will be a bake sale, a silent auction and a raffle drawing, with – once again – all the proceeds going to help Jacob and his family.

Jennifer Traugott goes to Berea Christian Church, where the Butlers are members and where Cameron Butler works part time, and she says they are simply doing the work that the Butler family would be doing if the roles were reversed.

“Kevin and Cameron are always helping at the church,” Traugott said. “They would be out here for Driver Days if they could. We just picked up where they left off. If it was your family, you just hope people would do the same for you.”

The women and men orchestrating the fundraisers said they have been most impressed by how many people outside the neighborhood have come on board to help.

For instance, from Nov. 29 through Dec. 23, volunteers will be taking shifts wrapping presents outside the Bass Pro Shop in Hampton for donations toward Jacob’s fund.

People who do not even personally know the Butlers have signed on to help wrap gifts.

“I think it’s just because it’s a child,” Buley said. “Everyone wants to give what they can give because it’s a child.”

“And no 2-year-old needs to go through that,” said friend and neighbor Nancy McCrickard.

To make a donation or for more information regarding these events, call 934-8200 or 538-1998.